Coldplay has recently become one of my favorite bands. Though I’ve always been interested in their music (and especially lead singer, Chris Martin) it wasn’t until my purchase of their 2000 debut,Parachutes that I began to call myself an actual fan. It was only natural that I purchase their latest effort, X&Y.
The album, which was released in 2005, has been a huge commercial success. It marked the group’s first U.S. chart-topper, and has sold over 10 million units worldwide. Still, the band was criticized for not straying far enough from the formulae of previous Coldplay albums. This may be true, but either way, the disc is made up of amazing songs and beautifully written lyrics that anyone would be impressed with.
Square One opens the album, and begins with futuristic sounding music before introducing Martin’s vocals. The song kicks into gear towards the chorus, with a heavy drum beat (Will Champion) and electric guitar (Jonny Buckland) that gives the track some excitement. However, the lyrics are the highlight of the song (“Is there anybody out there who/Is lost and hurt and lonely too/Are they bleeding all your colours into one/And have you come undone/As if you’ve been run through/Some catapult had fired you/You wonder if your chance will ever come/Or if you’re stuck in square one”), and the track provides a perfect opener for the album.
One of my favorite songs comes early with the ballad, What If. Similar to some of the songs on Parachutes, the track is stripped down to Martin’s vocals and piano during the verses, making it easier to focus on the lyrics about having doubt in a relationship (“Every step that you take/Could be your biggest mistake/It could bend or it could break /But that’s the risk that you take/What if you should decide/That you don’t want me there in your life?/That you don’t want me there by your side.”). Besides being extremely well-written, the song also boasts a catchy chorus, in which Martin sings in his trademark falsetto, and this track is one that you’ll have a hard time getting out of your head. White Shadows picks the tempo back up, and while the track has a nice tune and decent lyrics, it doesn’t hold much that really makes it stand out against the album’s stronger songs.
Fix You begins immediately after the song before it, and happened to be one of the band’s biggest hits. I’ve always been a fan of this song; Martin’s melancholy vocals and the honest lyrics (“And the tears come streaming down your face/When you lose something you can’t replace/When you love someone but it goes to waste/Could it be worse?/…Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones/And I will try to fix you”) have always struck a chord with me, and the track is easily one of my favorites from the band. The refrain of “tears stream down your face” towards the end of the song is backed with energetic drumming, picking the tempo up again, before ending with Martin singing the last lines of the song almost a capella. Talk is musically similar to White Shadows, though the use of electric piano and bass guitar (Guy Berryman) are heavily focused on, giving off a modern sound that works well.
The title track, X&Y is by far my favorite song on the album. Martin returns to his falsetto and his vocals sound both lovely and haunting during the verses and choruses. The melody is a bit more interesting than some of the ones before it, as the song starts off as a quiet ballad and then picks up by the second chorus. However, it is again the lyrics that draw me to the song, and a few lines during one of the verses are so relatable to me that it makes me wonder if Martin isn’t somehow spying on me and writing about my life (“I dive in at the deep end/You become my best friend/I wanna love you but I don’t know if I can/I know something is broken/and I’m trying to fix it/Trying to repair it anyway I can”). The song ends with a beautiful string section and some mellow harmonizing from Martin, and marks the album’s strongest piece.
Speed Of Sound was the disc’s lead single, and despite all the Clocks comparisons, I really like this song. The track begins with more electric piano, before leading into Martin’s vocals and light drumming. Sure, the melody is similar to the sporadic drums and piano that made up Clocks, but Speed is a good song on its own. I have mixed feelings when it comes to A Message. The melody is easily forgettable (even now I can’t place how it goes without turning on the song), but the sweet lyrics (“On a platform, I’m gonna stand and say/That I’m nothing on my own/And I love you, please come home”) create the perfect apology song.
The same goes for Low, which holds some of my favorite lyrics in the album (“All you ever wanted was love/But you never looked hard enough/It’s never gonna give itself up”), but isn’t interesting enough musically to really stand out. I’d just be repeating myself by saying that the statement carries on to The Hardest Part, which while sounding better and having better lyrics than it’s predecessor (“And the hardest part/Was letting go not taking part/You really broke my heart/And I tried to sing/But I couldn’t think of anything/And that was the hardest part/…everything I know is wrong”), simply lacks any originality which would make it worth listening to more than once.
Swallowed In The Sea probably has the most interesting sound on the album; production is stripped back to mostly vocals and strings (until the second verse when the drums kick in), and the result is a relaxing and beautiful song. Though the lyrics become quite repetitive towards the end, the melody still makes the track well worth listening to. Twisted Logic begins quietly, and then picks up instrumentation towards the middle of the song. Though the lyrics remain simple throughout, the catchy refrain of “You go backwards but then you go forwards again”, works well and makes for another great song. The album officially ends here, but after 45 seconds of silence, we’re introduced to a “hidden track”.
Til Kingdom Come was a song written by the band to be performed as a duet between Martin and the late Johnny Cash. Though Martin had recorded his part of the song, Cash passed away before he could record his, and the song was added onto the album as a sort of tribute to Cash. The melody maintains a definite country vibe, with mellow acoustic guitar and simple vocals from Martin. The lyrics are cliched, albeit romantic (“For you I’d wait ’til kingdom come/Until my day, my day is done/And say you’ll come and set me free/Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me”), and the song is a perfect end to the album.
Despite Coldplay being criticized by most for not advancing their sound with X&Y, I’m not sure I really see it as a bad thing. Martin and his band mates have created a style that works uniquely for them, and they have only perfected their sound with this album. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
1. Square One
2. What If
3. White Shadows
4. Fix You
7. Speed Of Sound
8. A Message
10. Hardest Part, The
11. Swallowed In The Sea
12. Twisted Logic
13. Til Kingdom Come – (hidden track)